Tolleson school district offers Uber-like ride service for students amid bus driver shortage

The Tolleson Union High School District is using a $2 million transportation grant to offer an Uber-like transportation service to students in an effort to combat the bus driver shortage affecting schools nationwide.

The district says it will help free up buses for other students, and so far, school officials say the program is working.

The transportation service, which is called HopSkipDrive, helps students who live outside the district's boundaries, including those who are homeless or in foster care.

"[Drivers] will pick up the student from their home, bring them all the way into that very last bus stop…before going into the school. They'll hop on there, and we'll go right into the school," said Jeremy Calles, chief financial officer for Tolleson Union.

HopSkipDrive is a ride-hailing company designed for children. They say parents and guardians can keep track of the drive through an app.

"We are bringing a completely new type of driver to the school transportation challenge, and so our drivers are independent contractors that have five years of caregiving experience and go through our 15 Point certification process to be on our platform," said HopSkipDrive CEO and co-founder Joanna McFarland.

The district launched the new option for homeless students under the McKinney-Vento Act and will also provide it to other students who are not zoned for the district starting in the new year.

"It helps free up our drivers…we need to be able to focus on our mainstream buses that are taking care of our in-district population," Jeremy Calles explained. "But also it's a great benefit to…those open enrollment families who care so much about being at one of our schools, but just happened to live outside the boundary. It's now making that choice much more obtainable for them."

Parents or anyone interested in becoming drivers can sign up on the HopSkipDrive website.

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